il·lu·mi·nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt \
illuminated; illuminating

Definition of illuminate 

(Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a(1) : to supply or brighten with light

(2) : to make luminous or shining

b : to enlighten spiritually or intellectually

c : to subject to radiation

d archaic : to set alight

2a : to make clear : elucidate

b : to bring to the fore : highlight a crisis can illuminate how interdependent we all are

3 : to make illustrious or resplendent

4 : to decorate (something, such as a manuscript) with gold or silver or brilliant colors or with often elaborate designs or miniature pictures


il·lu·mi·nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 2 of 3)

1 archaic : brightened with light

2 archaic : intellectually or spiritually enlightened


il·lu·mi·nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 3 of 3)


: one having or claiming unusual enlightenment

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Other words from illuminate


illuminator \i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnā-tər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for illuminate

Synonyms: Verb

bathe, beacon, emblaze, illume, illumine, irradiate, light, lighten

Antonyms: Verb

blacken, darken, obfuscate

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Examples of illuminate in a Sentence


the part of the moon illuminated by the sun A university study has illuminated the problem.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Evan Horowitz digs through data to find information that illuminates the policy issues facing Massachusetts and the nation. Evan Horowitz,, "Work is getting better, especially for women," 14 July 2018 While this highlighter is illuminating, it isn’t filled with chunky sparkles. Shannon Barbour, The Cut, "Becca Created a Highlighter for Meghan Markle," 14 May 2018 The results were illuminating, with savvy Curbed readers identifying where to buy original vintage items, which stores have the best replicas, and providing general hot tips galore. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Where to buy midcentury furniture, according to Curbed readers," 4 May 2018 The process is illuminating, as Sturtevant doesn’t interfere with the discussion groups but allows the reader to vicariously learn history — and how films influence our perception of history — through his commentary. Scott Manning,, "Paul B. Sturtevant's 'Middle Ages': Learning a little history from popular culture," 1 May 2018 The exercise was illuminating for the 30 people gathered. Denise Coffey, Courant Community, "Building Interfaith Bridges By Listening," 26 Apr. 2018 Every update and non-update is illuminating—not because Leonard will dramatically return to save the series, but because those bits are the only overt connection between a team in the midst of its playoff run and that team's best player. Rob Mahoney,, "The Divide Between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs," 16 Apr. 2018 Fifty-eight installations are illuminating the capital in Lumiere, a free public festival. Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle, "First look: The Cottonmouth Club," 11 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The problem is that, while the careful study of history can provide policymakers with powerful insights, incongruous comparisons can just as easily obscure as illuminate contemporary challenges. Richard Fontaine, The Atlantic, "The Uses and Misuses of Historical Analogy for North Korea," 3 Oct. 2017 Throughout the film, interviews reveal the pervasive abuses committed against infants, children and teens as well as illuminate groups and people who are working to stop it. Kimber Myers,, "Filmmaker-monk goes after sex trade in documentary 'Stopping Traffic'," 28 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illuminate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of illuminate


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for illuminate


Middle English, from Latin illuminatus, past participle of illuminare, from in- + luminare to light up, from lumin-, lumen light — more at luminary

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Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for illuminate

The first known use of illuminate was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for illuminate



English Language Learners Definition of illuminate

: to supply (something) with light : to shine light on (something)

: to make (something) clear and easier to understand


il·lu·mi·nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt \
illuminated; illuminating

Kids Definition of illuminate

1 : to supply with light : light up He clutched Rose as a dazzling blast illuminated the lobby… —Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck

2 : to make clear : explain His speech illuminated the subject.

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Comments on illuminate

What made you want to look up illuminate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a magnificent or impressive array

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